Since moving to South Yorkshire around 10 years ago, it’s been good to discover the great musical heritage that abounds here. Of note must be the great Joe Cocker and one of Mike’s former Mechanics, Paul Carrack. The Classic Rock Society has two great venues here too, at Maltby and Wath-upon-Dearne, and within popular music of various genres the county has given birth to Human League, Heaven 17, Def Leppard, Pulp and Arctic Monkeys among many others.
To that list we can also add The Black Vines. They may seem like an odd band to be reviewing on this site, but as Brad has mentioned them in an earlier post maybe I can get away with it.
This is the second album by this Barnsley four-piece, and the 10 tracks take up just over 41 minutes of your time, ranging from 2:40 to an almost epic 8:00 for the album closer. This is not ‘prog’ as we would understand it: this is honest, stripped-down, bluesy rock; “a hard-hitting dirty riff-based dirge, full of soul and dark matter” as the band’s own Bandcamp page proclaims. There’s nothing unnecessary or pretentious here: this is music taken down to the bare essentials and delivered with power and panache as only guitar, bass, drums and voice can.
That said, there are some quirks to this recording that give it a certain edge: for goodness’ sake, they use a mandolin on ‘Another Second Chance’! A number of the songs use audio clips of old radio shows in polished English accents as introductions. The opening song ‘Come With Us’ has the time signal (the ‘pips’) near the beginning, which is echoed at the end of the penultimate track ‘Wolves’, giving the impression that the ‘long song’, ‘In From The…Reign’, is some kind of coda, or even a summary of the whole collection. The clip that opens it speaks of ‘listening to Britain’ and urges us to ‘hear that heart beating’, and perhaps that’s what the rest of the songs have been seeking to help us to do.
If it is the heartbeat of Britain, then it is a frenetic one! A pounding beat pervades the music, driven by bass and drums that feature quite high in the mix in many places, though without completely overpowering the riffing of the guitar and the calm but powerful authority of the vocals. This album put me in mind (in places) of Black Country Communion, Wolfmother, Bad Company and The Temperance Movement, and even of some of Hendrix’s bluesier pieces.
There are some wonderful crowd-pleasing moments here, and I have no doubt that these guys will rock in the live setting (I’ve not seen them live, but can imagine that something like ‘Black Boots on Red Dirt’ would go down particularly well). If you like your rock ‘down and dirty’, and on the whole bite-sized, then this may be a band for you: this is what the band themselves call – in good Yorkshire style – “mucky Rock”.
One thought on “Black Vines – The Return of the Splendid Bastards”
John, what a beautifully-written review. Thank you! I continue to believe we have the single best writing, overall, of any website dedicated to any subject. Your piece only confirms this.
As to the Black Vines, I love these guys. These Bastards are splendid, indeed. The music seems very much in line with the Seattle grunge scene of the early 1990s.
Throw in some Lenny Kravitz and Matthew Sweet–and a pure dose of Dalton’s clear honesty and integrity– and you have the Black Vines.